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This post contains major spoilers for the Season Three finale of Yellowstone. Proceed with caution.
For Cole Hauser, stumbling into the world of Yellowstone and bringing Rip Wheeler to life is what he's been looking for throughout his career. For three seasons, the actor has harnessed the de facto Dutton, playing the Montana ranch's grim reaper for a whole litany of people who have dared cross the owners of Yellowstone. Chances are, if you're seeing a stout man in a black hat and dark beard emerge in front of you, your time on this earth is drawing nigh.
But Hauser's journey with Rip has taken quite a turn in Season Three. With Rip set to officially enter the Dutton family tree after proposing to Beth (Kelly Reilly), Hauser's character has flexed a bit of a soft spot over this season's ten-episode run. But is that really sustainable anymore? After Rip went to his mother's grave to dig her up (!) and get her ring to propose to Beth (?!?), things got real dark in Rip's world. Coming into the Season Three finale, fans feared that Rip might meet his maker, but the real danger was for every important person in Rip's life. In short, nothing is coming up Rip.
Hauser hopped on the phone with Esquire (prior to the revelations in the finale) to discuss Season Three fan theories, what a future with the equally eccentric Beth Dutton might look like (provided she lives), and whether Rip gets his revenge on a man he thought he sent to the "train station."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
This has been such a great season for Rip because we've gotten to see such a softer side to him?
I was saying to someone else today, you're always looking for that role where you have many different colors, and this is that role. Taylor [Sheridan] is writing, I think it's the highest level for him. It's giving him the opportunity to not just be black and white. It's not easy at times because it pulls at your heartstrings, even when you're doing it. But it's an honor to see where Taylor can take this character and see how people are responding to it.
I was thinking about a scene from a couple episodes back where we see Rip release a horse into the wild, so it can be free. It's this moment where a very masculine guy is trying his best to express a more sensitive side. It's a powerful scene that resonated with the viewers.
With Lloyd, right. It's a beautiful scene, shot beautifully. You get to see this relationship between Lloyd and Rip. Lloyd has always been his older brother in a way. I remember doing that scene, and it was powerful.
Working with Kelly Reilly has to be a blast. Rip is in a relationship with Beth on the show, and that's a complicated duo. Do you think these two characters ever have an actual chance of ending up together?
I got to say–out of everybody, she's such a pleasure to work with. We have so much to do together. Being able to act them with her is an honor. [Regarding Rip and Beth], absolutely. I think that world is starting to open up. That's absolutely something that could happen. You're going to see how it shakes out at the end, but... we'll see where Taylor takes us. I don't sit with him and say, "Hey, by year seven, are we here or there?" That relationship, it could go many different ways, but I think it could go in the way of us being together.
[Rip's best case end] is with Beth, in a shack. I think they're somewhere happy. It would be a real success story for both of them. Not just for Rip, because they'll have each other.
Perusing the internet, people are very worried your character is going to get killed off. I don't know where that comes from, but have you experienced that?
A couple buddies of mine who are friends of the show sent me something on Instagram that said "Will Rip survive season three?" You know you're doing alright if people are making those kind of things up. It's not something i pay a lot of attention to, but it's interesting that people are going in that direction.
This season has been interesting because we find out Jamie isn't a Dutton, and in a weird way, it almost puts Rip and Jamie at the same level.
This last year, I kept looking at the scripts and saying, "This is totally taking a different turn than I thought." As the actor, you start to see this is where he is headed. For Wes [Bentley], I think it was a surprise, but I think it'll be good for the show.
In a way, this show feels like an inevitable tragedy. You have a line of work that is dwindling away and these characters who can't seem to escape these precarious positions. I can't imagine Yellowstone coming to an end without tragedy befalling these people.
I don't think of it that way. When I look at this story, I don't see it as tragic. [The creators] wanted to show a part of the country and what they're going through that people didn't know about. It's survived 130 years already. It's one of those things that's like, oh, this is going away. It's not going to be like this anymore, but it is. All the things happening in 1879 are still happening to this day. It would have to be a long tragedy. I think this is a great depiction of ranchers, water rights, American Indians, casino business. It's the same thing, with a newer spin on it.
I think what makes the show so successful is that it speaks to something you don't really see on TV anymore.
There you go. And I'm happily surprised that people still care about story, character, the West. For whatever reason, I think this younger generation has a hard time sitting and watching that.
A couple episodes ago, Lloyd said to Rip something along the lines of "you've lived long enough to outlive your past," and then immediately, Walker [Ryan Bingham] popped up—a guy Rip wanted dead and believed had been killed. He can't catch a break. What was your first thoughts when he popped up again?
Too bad for him. [laughs] He's a glutton for punishment. I was happy. I love Ryan Bingham; he's a friend of mine, so I was happy to see him pop up. For the character of Walker, it's not going to be an easy road. He's supposed to be dead, and I think [Rip's frustration] is directed a bit toward Kayce.
Is there any world where Rip doesn't get his revenge?
You know, that's a great question, and you'll find out. [laughs] That's something I'm not going to give ya. Soon enough.
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